NASCAR: Gordon coming off last-place finish
By Mike Harris
AVONDALE, Ariz. ó A year ago, Jeff Gordon crossed Phoenix International Raceway off the ever-dwindling list of tracks where the four-time champion has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
His victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 also was significant because it was his 76th, matching the career mark of the late Dale Earnhardt. And it also was the first of six victories by Gordon in one of best seasons of his career, even if Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson did beat him out for the title.
“Last year was an awesome year for us, all the way around,” Gordon said after qualifying 11th for tonight’s race on the mile Phoenix oval. “And it was definitely one of the highlights of last season and definitely a highlight of my career. To go as long as we’ve gone without winning a race here, and I guess the irony of the fact that we tied Dale Earnhardt, to me, that’s what made it so special.”
Now, the only current Cup tracks where Gordon hasn’t won are Homestead and Texas.
Each time he gets that first victory at a track, Gordon is elated that he won’t have to answer questions about why he hasn’t won there yet.
“It’s just such a relief, you know,” said Gordon, who finished 10th in the fall race at the track. “It’s like going to Texas. We have to go to Texas every single time with the “haven’t won here, haven’t won here.’ That’s frustrating.
“Of course, we kind of created that. If we hadn’t won at so many tracks then they wouldn’t be asking me those questions, so it’s a good problem to have.”
Now Gordon would like to take advantage of his newfound winning ways at Phoenix to bounce back from a terrible race last week on that bugaboo Texas track, where he crashed and finished last in the 43-car field.
It is only the second time in 516 Cup starts that Gordon has finished last. The other time was in April 1999 ó at Texas.
But there is another thing to be concerned about right now: Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet has not been running at the end of three of seven races this year, the most DNF’s (did not finish) by any driver in 2008.
“If we were going back to Texas, we’d be really nervous, but also be anxious to try some different and new things,” Gordon said. “The fact that we’re going to a totally different racetrack allows you to put that out of your mind.
“It’s not that our team’s in trouble, it’s not that our race cars haven’t been good.”